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Addiction and Drug Abuse Treatment in Aurora, Colorado

In recent years, the United States has seen an unprecedented rise in drug and alcohol addiction. National rates of use, abuse, and overdose of a variety of substances have increased significantly over the last two decades. Although the drug epidemic is commonly thought of as a nationwide issue, not all regions of the country have experienced the crisis to the same degree, and each state and city faces its own unique struggles and concerns.

Colorado’s substance abuse epidemic is unique compared to other states in that it is not dominated by only one drug. The national drug crises has largely been fueled by the dramatic increase in opioid addiction, which has taken hold in many regions of the country beginning in the 1990s, when drug companies insisted that opioid painkillers were not addictive. Although most U.S. cities face issues resulting from addiction to a variety of substances, it is common for one or two substances to stand out as the most commonly abused in a given region. Aurora, like other cities and rural areas in Colorado, suffers from high abuse rates of a variety of substances, both legal and illegal.

If you live in Aurora, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Aurora

According to a recent report by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI), Colorado’s drug overdose rate is higher than the national average, with certain counties suffering from much higher death rates compared to others in the state. The report relies in part on nationwide data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and reveals that deaths resulting from drug overdoses rose from 9.7 per 100,000 residents in 2002 to 16.3 per 100,000 residents in 2014. The national average in 2014 was 14.7 per 100,000 residents.

Although all counties in Colorado have suffered from the increase in drug abuse and overdoses, come counties and cities have seen sharper increases and experience higher rates. The city of Aurora, which spans Arapahoe and Adams counties and part of which extends into Douglas County, has seen some of the sharpest increases in overdoses in the state, particularly in the last few years.

Marijuana is legal in Colorado, so it is expected that the use of marijuana for non-medical purposes is more common in Aurora and other cities in Colorado. However, rates of alcohol abuse and the use of other illegal drugs, including non-medical opioids, cocaine, and alcohol, are also higher.

Although it is a complex and multifaceted issue, magnified by the increased presence of criminal gangs and drug cartels in areas suffering from widespread substance abuse, there is a notable relationship between the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse and criminal activity in a given area.

Crime rates in Aurora are higher than those of other cities in Colorado and compared to national averages, for both violent and property crimes. Aurora’s overall crime rate is 26 percent higher than the U.S. national average, and 16% higher than the average for the state of Colorado. Aurora’s violent crime rate is especially high—54 percent higher than Colorado’s average, and 37% higher than the national average—and, although property crimes are also more common in Aurora, the rates are higher by a smaller margin compared with violent crime rates.

Aurora faces unique concerns when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. Law enforcement, treatment providers, and public officials at the local and state level each face their own unique challenges in the struggle to address the drug epidemic in Aurora and other cities and rural areas of Colorado. However, while drug abuse is a societal issue, it is the individual addicted to drugs or alcohol who suffers most.

If you or someone you know is suffering with addiction, you are not alone. There are resources available to help break the cycle of abuse and addiction, and recovery is possible for everyone. There are a variety of treatment options available in and around Aurora for those suffering from addiction to alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and/or other addictive substances. Keep reading to learn more about the available resources, treatment options, and how the recovery process works.


Drug assessment is one of the first—and sometimes most anxiety-provoking—components of entering a drug or alcohol treatment program. Every treatment center is different in terms of the specific screening methods and practices used during the assessment process. Generally, the purpose of the assessment is to provide staff members and clinicians with the initial information they need to help the patient detox—if necessary—and begin the road to recovery.

The assessment process is designed to provide the treatment center with a comprehensive picture of the patient’s addiction, including which substance(s) the person may be using, the severity of the physical and psychological addiction, and the patient’s overall mental and physical health and well-being upon entry to the center.

Typically, staff members administer laboratory tests, which may include a blood and/or urine sample, and test the patient’s vital signs. Depending on the treatment center and the extent of the individual’s addiction, a comprehensive physical exam may also be administered during the assessment process. Staff members may also collect information about the patient’s mental and physical health history and past experiences with drugs and alcohol. In certain cases, the treatment center may also collect information about the patient’s family and inquire about any family history of substance abuse.

In addition to laboratory tests and general questions and information gathering, most drug assessments also include the administration of one or more self-reported survey tools designed to provide clinicians with a comprehensive overview of the new patient’s addiction and behavioral and mental health.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following self-reported survey tools are commonly administered as part of a typical drug treatment assessment:

  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)
  • Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)
  • CAGE Questionnaire
  • Drug Abuse Screen Test

In addition to the above screening tools, which are primarily designed to assess the severity and scope of a patient’s addiction, many treatment centers will also administer supplementary survey tools upon an individual’s arrival. These tools are designed to assess the person’s overall mental health and identify any existing mood, anxiety, or personality disorders. These tools may also be utilized as a way to assess the potential for self-harm and determine underlying issues related to past trauma.


For many people suffering from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, the decision to seek help and enter treatment is one of the most difficult components of the entire recovery process. Some people enter treatment following an intervention, while others decide to get help with their addiction on their own. However the decision is made to enter treatment, it is common—and very normal—to feel a great deal of anxiety, apprehension, and worry prior to entering treatment.

For many people, there is a fear of the unknown. Who will my roommate be? What will detox be like? Will I be expected to talk about my childhood? These are all common questions that may circulate in an individual’s mind before they enter treatment. Although fear and anxiety is a perfectly understandable part of the pre-intake process and to some extent may be unavoidable, learning as much as possible about how treatment generally works and what to expect may help ease some of the worry.

In addition to the concerns people have about treatment itself, many people worry about the practical aspects and logistics of entering treatment. It is common to have concerns about how bills will be paid, who will look after any children or pets during treatment, and how you will take time off if you are employed.

It can help to ensure that your other responsibilities are taken care of before you enter treatment, so that you can focus on your recovery. It is important to note that all employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This includes treatment for substance abuse and addiction. If you are entering inpatient treatment and are responsible for paying bills or looking after any children or pets, it is important to make sure these things are taken care of while you are away. Enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend, or seek out other resources to help make sure you can focus on recovery while in treatment.

Before entering treatment, it is also important to make sure you understand the particular rules and requirements of the treatment center. Each center is different and has its own specific set of rules, requirements, expectations, and policies. Most centers have a list of restricted items that you may not bring into treatment. It is also common for there to be rules about visitors and the use of cell phones. It is helpful to carefully read a treatment center’s website, and ask any questions you may have over the phone, via email, or during the intake process to make sure you understand what is expected of you during treatment.


The intake process is different at every treatment center; however, there are some common procedures and practices that you can expect upon arriving for treatment. In addition to the assessment process, which varies in length and comprehensiveness substantially depending on the center, the intake process for drug and/or alcohol addiction typically includes signing various consent forms and reading over some initial documents that explain rules and expectations and may provide some information about what to expect.

Almost all treatment centers have a list of restricted items (which may be listed on their website) that you may not bring with you into treatment. Most treatment centers will go through your belongings with you during the intake process and remove any restricted items from your bags. The items that are restricted differ from center to center, but most rehabilitation facilities do not allow the following items:

  • Drugs, alcohol, and unapproved prescriptions
  • Weapons
  • Food and drinks
  • Toiletries containing alcohol
  • Revealing clothing
  • Aerosols and cleaning supplies
  • Electronics, including cell phones, tablets, and laptops
  • Expensive belongings and cash
  • Flammable objects or substances

During intake, you are likely to be required to provide a urine sample and drug test and possibly take a breathalyzer. It is also typical for new patients to be asked to answer questions about their medical and substance abuse history.

In addition to the above standard intake procedures, patients generally meet one-on-one with a counselor at the facility to discuss expectations, develop a treatment plan, and begin to identify possible underlying mental health issues or past traumas that may contribute to the individual’s addiction. These meetings also give new patients an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.

The final component of the intake process generally involves a tour of the treatment center. Depending on the center, the tour may be given by a staff member or by a current patient who will show the new patient their sleeping quarters, dining area, and where therapy sessions and checkups will take place.


The detoxification and withdrawal process can be vastly different depending on the substance to which a person is addicted, how long they have been using, and the severity of their addiction. In addition, the person’s unique biology plays a role in the detoxification process, as does the extent of his or her psychological addiction. Not every patient has to go through withdrawal. However, those with severe and/or long-lasting addictions and those addicted to heroin or other opiates generally have to undergo a detox and withdrawal period while being supervised by a medical specialist.

Broadly, “detox” refers to the time period during which a person first stops taking a substance to which he or she is addicted and the body begins to dispose of the associated toxins and chemicals. The detoxification process is one of the first and often most difficult parts of treatment and recovery.

The bodies of those addicted to drugs or alcohol have become accustomed to receiving regular doses of the substance, and when the body is deprived of the drug, it produces side effects. The duration of the detox period and the associated side effects vary significantly depending on the substance and the severity of the addiction.

Although side effects vary, some of the most common symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating

As discussed above, the detoxification process differs greatly from person to person depending on a variety of factors. Detox can take place on either an inpatient or outpatient basis; however, those with severe addictions and those addicted to heroin or other opiates are typically strongly advised to be monitored by medical professionals during detox. This is because the risk of overdose in the case of a relapse is increased in these cases, and in some situations withdrawal itself can be fatal without proper monitoring.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

Residential/Inpatient Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options and resources for those seeking help recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Broadly, treatment programs can be broken up into inpatient treatment (sometimes referred to as “residential” treatment) and outpatient treatment. Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each individual brings his or her own unique needs, preferences, and experiences to recovery. Deciding what type of treatment is right for you will depend on a number of factors, including the severity and duration of your addiction, what substance(s) you are using, and your own wishes and preferences.

Inpatient treatment programs are designed to provide safe, secure, and entirely drug-free environments in which patients can completely devote themselves to detox and recovery without distraction and temptation. Inpatient treatment centers typically have medical professionals, counselors, and addiction specialists on staff at all times to provide physical, emotional, and psychological support and patients visit with clinicians on a regular basis. In addition, patients attend scheduled counseling and/or therapy sessions. Therapy is typically conducted on both an individual and group basis, and some inpatient treatment centers also offer family counseling.

The duration of inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction depends on a number of factors, including the depth of the patient’s physical and psychological addiction, potential risk factors for relapse, and support systems they may have at home. It is typical for rehabilitation to last for 30 days; however, many programs last longer.

Outpatient Treatment

As previously discussed, there is no one-size-fits-all method to addiction treatment. Recovering from physical and/or psychological substance addiction is an individual process, and the kind of treatment you need depends on your unique needs and preferences.

Outpatient treatment programs allow patients to continue living in their current homes or in a transitional sober living house during treatment, and are generally considered less intensive than inpatient treatment programs. Those in outpatient treatment who require detox may still undergo the process at a facility or treatment center (and then continue treatment on an outpatient basis). Alternatively, patients may undergo detox at home with regular check-ups. As mentioned previously, those addicted to opioids and those with severe addictions to other substances are generally advised to go through detox under close medical supervision.

Non-residential or outpatient programs generally have certain hours during which patients are required to be at the treatment facility, and some programs involve daily visits. Outpatient treatment typically requires patients to submit to regular drug testing and involve individual, group, and/or family therapy similar to inpatient treatment programs.

Outpatient programs are generally less expensive and less intrusive than inpatient treatment. Because they are less intensive and involve less supervision and 24-hour support, outpatient programs tend to last longer. It is also common for those who have undergone inpatient treatment to continue to attend therapy on an outpatient basis while they transition out of the inpatient program.

Aftercare and Sober Living

Recovery does not end when a person leaves treatment. It is an ongoing process and a lifelong commitment. The transition from treatment to living independently and without the support of drug and alcohol addiction specialists and peers can be a difficult one. The treatment environment offers continuous supervision, support, and encouragement, and leaving treatment is a critical time in the recovery process.

Those making the transition out of an inpatient treatment facility are at increased risk of relapse in the hours, days, and months following discharge. It is important to develop an ongoing plan for continued recovery and sobriety.

Aftercare is an essential component of recovery, and having an aftercare plan when exiting treatment can significantly reduce the risk of relapse and help those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction successfully make the transition back into everyday life.

Maintaining trusted support systems upon leaving treatment is a vital component of sober living for many people. It is common for those who have undergone inpatient treatment to continue some kind of treatment on an outpatient basis. Many people also find it helpful to continue attending individual or family therapy.

Some of the available resources commonly used as components of aftercare following drug or alcohol treatment are listed below:

  • Outpatient treatment programs
  • Individual, group, or family therapy
  • Sober living homes
  • Pharmaceutical treatments
  • Support groups
  • 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a challenge and an accomplishment. Maintaining sobriety requires a great deal of dedication, self-acceptance, and self-understanding. Maintaining a support system of trusted loved ones helps many people stay on track during the difficult times. Many people form these connections with peers while in treatment, at a sober living home, or through 12 step programs.

Each person has his or her own path to recovery. Just like treatment, an aftercare plan should be focused on meeting the needs of each individual. Recovering from addiction is not easy, but it is worth it.